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  • Writer's pictureJames Sargent

Snapshot Clues

Blog Item – California Redwoods, Chapter 6, “Back Bay and Blackmail”:

Looking at the snapshot again, Mickey checked the back. “Hopefully we can find out who the photographer was. Remember, the bankbook shows that deposits of $75 or more were made in cash, starting in 1934. Somehow Hank got hold of the picture, or a copy of it, and used it to blackmail someone. I’d say the man near the car was being blackmailed. He could be the killer. If he isn’t, why is he reaching to move the dead woman’s hand before closing the trunk?”

Captain Dickson replied, “If the man behind the car isn’t the killer, the one in the driver’s seat is.”

He placed a finger on the outline of a man’s head visible through the wide rear window. “Those two with the car gotta be involved. If you figure this is Sara Clarkston, and I say the date can’t be a coincidence, then we’re after at least two men.”

Mickey’s mind was in high gear. “Remember this. Whoever took the photo was in on the deal, or he cut himself in on the deal by taking the picture.”

He eyed Hank. “Your dad had to know about this snapshot. It’s his safe box.” Pausing, he added, “Look at the alley. Isn’t this the alley between the Back Bay and the Stanford Arms, next door?”

Grabbing the picture, Dickson examined it again. He smoothed it on his palm like he could clarify the images. “That’s the alley next to the Back Bay. And Cisco was a regular at the Bay.”

He turned to Crocker. “Hell, Junior, you can’t deny that!”

Dickson glared at Hank. “This picture might have killed ol’ Hank. Mickey and Chet come sniffing around, and after all these years, Hank’s still collecting blackmail money.”

The burly detective moved close to Crocker’s face. “See, the killer, or killers, got nervous about Mickey here, not to mention the Clarkston woman’s own son, and bang! First thing you know, ol’ Hank is locking up at night, and whammo! Man, alive! I’m solving this old case!”

Mickey spoke firmly. “Hold on! Let’s not go off half-cocked. We don’t know the hand in the picture belonged to Sara Clarkston. We don’t know Hank Crocker was involved. Even if it’s the right alley, we need proof. For all we know, Crocker could have been run down by the blackmail victim.”

… Dickson’s face reddened. Mickey’s logic had punctured the captain’s balloon like an arrow hitting the bullseye. Sputtering a few expletives, he bounced back. “Okay, then, I’m going back to the office and call Sacramento. I’ll put one of those lazy bureaucrats to work checking this license.”

… As they walked out of the room, Dickson turned to Hillman. “Mister Hillman. I appreciate you taking time to help us out. This twelve-year-old mystery has eaten at me too long. I admit it.”

Hillman managed a grin. “Very good, captain.”

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